Laughton out to prove he should stay with Flyers

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Laughton out to prove he should stay with Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. -- It was Jan. 27. Scott Laughton was in Tampa, Fla.

He remembers it well. And he doesn’t want it to happen again.

“I remember the exact moment I was walking around and I got a call,” Laughton said. “And I just sat down with [GM Paul] Holmgren and talked about how I was going to go back to junior.”

Laughton, the center whom the Flyers selected 20th overall in the 2012 draft, learned he would be going back to the Oshawa Generals that day upon returning home from Florida. He wouldn't be staying with the Flyers for a sixth game.

There had been plenty of debate about whether Laughton, who averaged 11:31 on the ice and fit in seamlessly with the Flyers, would remain past the dreaded game No. 5. Per NHL rules, underage junior-level players can play nine games before a year is burned off their entry-level contracts. For last year’s lockout-shortened season, that number was cut to five.

In the end, the Flyers decided Laughton would be better served by playing top-six minutes and collecting time on special teams with the Generals. Even knowing the then-18-year-old would have spent a fair amount of time on the bench or in the press box had he stayed with the Flyers, the decision was a tough one.

“I think that he made a real strong impression on all of us,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “He proved that he could skate, he could compete, that he was smart enough to jump into a lineup like that and play games.

“Going back and getting another year and getting stronger and more experience at that level, but to be more mature, more physically mature, I think that only helps him coming back to this year."

Unfortunately for Laughton, most of the Flyers’ roster for the 2013-14 season is set. Fortunately, though, the coaches and front office liked a lot of what they saw from him last year, and he will be getting a lot of looks during this week’s rookie camp -- which opened Friday -- and next week’s full team camp.

Laughton knows that. If any of the 26 participants in rookie camp make it to the Flyers' Oct. 2 season opener, chances are it will be him. And that's what he's trained for all summer, not just improving his strength and conditioning, but focusing on the areas of his game he knows he must take to the next level to succeed in the NHL.

He worked with a new trainer. He put on weight. He focused on improving his net presence.

“[I’m] definitely more confident, more comfortable,” he said. “I think I’m better in the offensive zone, definitely, and I think I’ve stuck with the defensive game -- I’m not cheating the puck or anything like that. I think staying on the offensive side, I’ve been better for sure.”

Though so much attention has been paid to the Flyers' defense and how the team is suddenly fully stocked -- if not overstocked -- on the blue line, the Flyers are particularly strong at center as well. Claude Giroux, Vincent Lecavalier, Sean Couturier and Max Talbot are all technically ahead of Laughton on the depth chart at center.

At least thus far, however, Laughton has refrained from playing around with the Flyers' lineup and imagining how and where he might fit into it.

“I don’t think I need to,” he said. “I think my job is clear here, to try to get a spot on the team, and that’s the ultimate goal. I don’t need to look at the roster and see what’s going on. I’ve just got to do my job every day, and I hope it works out.”

There have already been plenty of discussions about Laughton's future, and whether 2013 could be the year he makes the full transition from juniors to pro. There have been so many, in fact, that the Flyers' front office has already begun to consider whether it could be worth moving Laughton from center to left wing, just to keep him around.

"Paul and I talked about that, and I think that’s something that we’ll look at and consider through training camp here," Laviolette said. "But he’s a centerman, that’s his natural position, and he’s going to be given plenty of opportunity to play center here."

That's OK with Laughton. And so too is a move to left wing -- even though he's never played it before.

After all, he said, “the ultimate goal is clear: just to make this team.”

Best of NHL: Red Wings' 25-year playoff streak snapped in loss

Best of NHL: Red Wings' 25-year playoff streak snapped in loss

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Lee Stempniak and Joakim Nordstrom scored about five minutes apart in the first period, and the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Detroit Red Wings 4-1 Tuesday night in the teams' second meeting in two nights.

Jordan Staal and Elias Lindholm also scored for Carolina and Cam Ward stopped 21 shots. The Hurricanes have earned a point in 12 straight games (8-0-4) to move four points out of the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot.

The Red Wings beat the Hurricanes on Monday in a makeup game rescheduled from Dec. 19 when a Freon leak at PNC Arena made for unplayable ice. Tuesday's contest was regularly scheduled.

The postponement resulted in three games in the three days for the Red Wings. They won the first two but visibly struggled with their energy in the finale to snap a four-game point streak.

Tomas Nosek scored his first NHL goal and Jimmy Howard made 28 saves for Detroit (see full recap).

Rask backstops Bruins to important win over Predators
BOSTON -- Tuukka Rask made 24 saves in his return from a one-game absence and the Boston Bruins beat the Nashville Predators 4-1 on Tuesday night, boosting their playoff chances.

Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Noel Acciari and David Backes scored for the Bruins, who moved three points ahead of idle Tampa Bay for the second Eastern Conference wild card with six games remaining. Boston began the night a point behind Toronto for third place in the Atlantic Division.

Rask was sidelined with a lower-body injury for Boston's 2-1 road win against the New York Islanders on Saturday.

Bergeron's goal was his 18th of the season, and Krejci got his 22nd. Acciari scored his first career goal in 43 NHL games, Backes netted his 17th of the season and Zdeno Chara earned his 600th NHL point with an assist on Boston's first goal (see full recap).

Matthews sets rookie scoring mark in Leafs' win
TORONTO -- Auston Matthews broke Wendel Clark's 31-year-old franchise rookie record with his 35th goal of the season, and the Toronto Maple Leafs earned a 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.

The victory kept Toronto (87 points) one point up on the Boston Bruins (86) for the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division and four up on the Tampa Bay Lightning (83).

Curtis McElhinney made 25 saves to earn the win for the Leafs. Leo Komarov and Zach Hyman also scored for Toronto.

James Reimer allowed two goals on 14 shots for Florida before he was knocked from the game with an injury and replaced by Reto Berra, who made 10 saves. Reilly Smith and Jaromir Jagr scored for the Panthers (see full recap).

Oshie's OT goal for Caps beats Wild after Ovi hat trick
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- T.J. Oshie scored his second goal of the game 1:42 into overtime to bookend Alex Ovechkin's hat trick, Braden Holtby earned his 40th win and the Washington Capitals beat the Minnesota Wild 5-4 on Tuesday night for their fifth straight victory.

After Eric Staal's goal for the Wild tied the game with 26.6 seconds left in regulation, Oshie took a pass in the left circle from Marcus Johansson and beat struggling Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk with a wrist shot. Johansson had four assists.

Martin Hanzal and Jason Pominville had a goal and an assist apiece, but the Wild lost for the eighth time in nine games and fell to 3-11-1 in March after forward Zach Parise exited early with an injury (see full recap).

Flyers win game over Senators, but fail to gain ground in wild-card race

Flyers win game over Senators, but fail to gain ground in wild-card race

BOX SCORE

It was a special night as 24-year-old Jordan Weal hoisted his team upon his young shoulders, saving the Flyers in regulation and then winning for them in the shootout.
 
Yet in the end, even though the Flyers defeated Ottawa 3-2, they still lost (see Instant Replay).
 
Lost where it counts most -- in the wild-card standings.
 
Boston's 4-1 win over Nashville kept the Flyers six points behind in the wild card, but more significantly, reduced the Flyers' tragic number to six.
 
Six Bruins points or six points lost by the Flyers moving forward will eliminate Dave Hakstol's club from the playoffs.
 
"The last five or six games, we've been playing pretty good," Wayne Simmonds said. "After I looked up and saw Boston win, it sucks."
 
These last four games -- including the loss to Columbus -- have seen the kind of consistency the Flyers have craved and not gotten enough of during the second half of the season.
 
Had they been playing this type of sound, focused hockey in late January through February, they'd own a playoff spot right now.
 
"Even before that, we were losing games we should have been winning," Michael Del Zotto said. "That's the beauty of the game: there's no easy games.
 
"Consistency is the biggest factor. The teams at the top of the standings have been consistent all year long … not stringing three or four losses in a row, which is tough to come back on, especially this year with our division playing so well."
 
These days, one Flyer playing with every-night consistency is Weal, the kid the LA Kings sent to the Flyers as part of the Vinny Lecavalier deal.
 
Ottawa's Kyle Turris broke a 1-1 tie with 7:25 left on a goal that Steve Mason never saw through a thick screen. It was a deflating moment given how hard the Flyers worked defensively.
 
Two minutes later, Sens goalie Craig Anderson tried to clear the puck from behind the net and Weal intercepted, then scored on empty net to tie, 2-2.
 
Ottawa challenged that Simmonds interfered at the net and lost. Simmonds skated to the post and effectively prevented Anderson from getting there in time.
 
"It's my ice. I got there before him. It doesn't matter so long as I'm not in the blue paint," Simmonds said. "He touched me. It's my ice. He ran into the back of me."
 
That set up overtime and a bunch of missed opportunities before Weal beat Anderson once more during the shootout to clinch it. He's 2 for 2 here in shootouts.
 
Weal has six goals in 18 games. He is playing aggressively above his 5-foot-8 or so height. He seems to have earned his keep for next season as a regular and not a call-up, which he's been since early February.
 
Asked if he felt he's cemented his position as a Flyer, Weal replied, "Not at all. No, this is one of the best leagues in the world. Nothing is given to you here. You've got to keep working all the time, year to year. Your position is never guaranteed."
 
Flyers coach Dave Hakstol likes what he has seen, but won't talk about Weal's future.
 
"He's earned everything he's got and continues to do that on a daily basis," Hakstol said. "I wouldn't say he's brought a different vibe or energy. He's brought energy in his own way and has been a good two-way player. He's scored some big goals for us. He's a reliable player, who generates and creates offensively."
 
Weal's play on Valterri Filppula's line with Simmonds has had a trickle-down effect on the lineup, creating better matchups for the Flyers. He's taken pressure off Claude Giroux's line, and particularly, Sean Couturier's unit with Dale Weise and Brayden Schenn.
 
"They've been good together," Hakstol said of the Filppula unit. "Simmonds is playing some of his best hockey of the year, in terms of a power forward game.
 
"He's very tough to handle down low and that's adding an element for Fil and Wealer there. They seem to have chemistry here in the very short amount of time they've been together."
 
It's something for Flyer fans to look forward to next season. No one is talking about next season yet, but deep down inside, the players realize some of them need to make lasting impressions with the season running out on them.
 
The consistency in effort the Flyers have shown recently is exactly what they should have shown when it counted most -- right after the All-Star break.
 
"Yeah, you know we're competing hard," young Travis Konecny said. "We're not going to quit until the end of the season. That's the way we are. It's the character of our team. It's the things we've shown all year.
 
"Our games may not show it at times, our scores, but I think each and every night we always compete, we always battle. I think things are starting to happen for us. Pucks are starting to bounce the right ways for us and we're getting on the score sheet and it's helping us a lot."
 
What's not helping is all those teams ahead of them, especially Boston, are posting wins. Every two points Boston gets puts another dagger in the Flyers' side.
 
"Watching what other teams are doing is more stressful," Mason said. "Teams are going to win, teams are going to lose. But we obviously have to win and that's really all that matters."